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Mayor optimistic for city’s future

Annual address touts expansion

Mayor optimistic for city’s future

Turlock Mayor John Lazar delivers the State of the City address.

POSTED February 17, 2012 11:08 p.m.

In stark contrast to the tempered optimism of past addresses, Turlock Mayor John Lazar delivered an unabashedly positive State of the City address on Thursday.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the City of Turlock is in great shape," Lazar said.
Undertones of economic struggles, budgetary challenges, and cutbacks permeated Lazar's recent State of the City addresses, despite efforts to remain upbeat. But on Tuesday, Lazar reeled off a long list of Turlock's 2011 successes, suggesting further successes yet lie ahead in 2012.
Lazar pointed to numerous indicators of economic strength, from Blue Diamond Growers' planned processing facility to a 100 percent leased Monte Vista Crossings shopping center and new businesses in development across town. Hotel stays were up "significantly" in 2011, he said, due in large part to successful sporting events including the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championship, held at California State University, Stanislaus.
"I agree with Clint Eastwood that halftime is over in America, and we are getting on with the game in Turlock," Lazar said, referencing Chrysler's Super Bowl halftime advertisement.
Turlock also marked significant public works projects in 2011, Lazar said, from the reopening of the Carnegie Arts Center to the start of construction on a new Public Safety Facility and the Regional Transit Center bus hub at the corner of Golden State Boulevard and Del's Lane. Infrastructure was built in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, and construction will soon start on Avena Bella, an 80-unit affordable housing development set to open June 2013.
Additionally, groundwork was laid for a new surface water treatment plant, allowing Turlock to source drinking water from the Tuolumne River. And a low-interest State of California loan will allow Turlock to make significant upgrades and expansions to the city's wastewater treatment facility.
"2011 will be remembered as the year Turlock started looking to regional solutions for long term water and wastewater needs," Lazar said.
Despite declining state and federal funding, Lazar said Turlock has managed to continue successful programs, like rental assistance for senior mobile home park residents and recreation programs. New grants have allowed the city to hire additional firefighters and police officers, as well.
The efforts of Turlock's public safety personnel were highlighted in Lazar's address, with an 11 percent decrease in the most serious crimes - rape, murder, assault, burglary, and theft - in 2011. The gang enforcement unit continues to have successes, Lazar said, and the narcotics unit completed 60 felony arrests through undercover investigations, seizing more than 10 guns in the process.
In the future, Lazar said Turlock will have to find "innovative" ways to grow the economy. But, as Turlock grows, he said it must be mindful of the city's agricultural heritage and traditional boundaries, preventing sprawl.
"Personally, I want to hand down to my children the Turlock I have known and loved my entire life," Lazar said as he closed his address. "We can only do this if we work together as neighbors to preserve the life we have known and loved for generations."

Chiesa says county recovering
Lazar's 13-minute address was delivered at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce's annual membership breakfast, held at the Carnegie Arts Center for the first time this year. Also speaking at the breakfast were: John Sigsbury, President and CEO of Emanuel Medical Center; Paul Porter, Chamber Board Chairman; Linda Novak, Dean of the CSU Stanislaus School of Business; and Vito Chiesa, Stanislaus County District 2 Supervisor.
When Chiesa was elected four years ago, he said he had a different vision for what his first term as Supervisor would hold. But he said he believes the economic crisis is over, and is hopeful for the future.
But Stanislaus County is not yet out of the woods financially, Chiesa suggested. He projected flat tax revenues in 2012, though the County faces additional challenges with the elimination of redevelopment statewide, and additional non-violent parolees due to the state's "realignment" of prisoners.
Chiesa pointed to the creation of Turlock's Kenwood Park Lighting District, bringing streetlights to a crime-ridden county island in Turlock, as a highpoint of 2011.
"What's good for Turlock is good for Stanislaus County," Chiesa said. "I want everyone to succeed."


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